He is a driving force in one of the most prolific offenses in the major leagues for the Astros. He can do it all; hit for power, average and steal bases. But is it too early to for Jose Altuve to start considering to book a flight to Cooperstown?
At 5-foot-6, he can be easily overlooked, especially in a crowd. And with a soft-spoken demeanor and humble attitude, he won’t draw much attention to himself. But that’s okay. He doesn’t have to. Jose Altuve lets his play do the talking. And so far, his play has spoken loud and clear.
Even so, some have still yet to fully understand what his play says. With that in mind, I will translate it for you; Jose Altuve is on a Hall of Fame pace. That may sound like crazy talk, especially considering Altuve is only 27 years old. But when compared to other Hall of Fame second basemen, Altuve’s play up to this point translates seamlessly.
It’s not how you start.
It would seem that a player as good as Altuve would have dominated since his debut in the majors, right? Not so much. In his first three seasons, Altuve hit .285 and averaged five home runs and 34 RBIs per season. Those numbers earned him a 95 OPS+ from 2011-2013, well below major league average.
But just as the Houston Astros started to turn their fortunes around, so did Altuve. The 2014 season marked the coming out party for Jose Altuve. After hitting seven home runs, driving in 59 RBIs and swiping 56 bags, Altuve brought home the AL Batting Title in 2014 with a .341 average. He was also named an All-Star and garnered his first Silver Slugger award. But that wasn’t the end of Altuve’s accomplishments. In fact, he was just getting started.
Since his breakout 2014 season, Altuve has hit .325 and averaged 34 stolen bases per 162 games. He has also added some solid pop to his game, averaging 21 home runs and 83 RBIs as well. All of those numbers are good enough for a 142 OPS+ in his past three seasons, proving him to be one of the better hitters in all of baseball.
But if Altuve’s numbers up to this point don’t say “Hall of Fame pace” to you, just look at how he compares to other second basemen in the Hall of Fame today.
Hall of Fame comparisons
Jose Altuve has played seven seasons in the major leagues. In his career, he has hit .312 while averaging 12 home runs, 64 RBIs and 38 stolen bases per 162 games. Compared to 2005 Hall of Fame inductee Ryne Sandberg‘s first seven seasons, Altuve’s first seven seasons fare very well.
Sandberg hit .288 while averaging 16 home runs, 72 RBIs, and 37 stolen bases per 162 games in his first seven seasons in the majors. While Sandberg has an advantage in home runs and RBIs, Altuve easily bests him in batting average. And when comparing their OPS + (Altuve 121 OPS+, Sandberg 108 OPS+), Altuve comes out on top. But what about when Altuve is compared to a more recent Hall of Fame inductee?
Craig Biggio will always be one of the most beloved Astros players in team history and 20-year. The 2015 Hall of Fame inductee is a member of the 3,000 hit club and played all of his 20-year career with the Astros. But how does his first seven years in an Astros uniform compare to Altuve’s?
Biggio hit .282 while slugging 11 home runs, driving in 56 RBIs and stealing 29 stolen bases per 162 games. Altuve bests the career Astro in average, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases in their first seven years in the major leagues. But seven years doesn’t make a Hall of Fame player, does it?
It’s how you finish
Of course not. Jose Altuve is still far away from reaching the rarefied air that Sandberg and Biggio inhabit. But it’s not for lack of trying on Altuve’s part. His numbers up to this point in his career have been phenomenal, but he lacks one Hall of Fame necessity; longevity. Ryne Sandberg had a nine year stretch of offensive dominance that extended well into his thirties, and Craig Biggio was still producing at an above-average rate at 39-years-old.
That is the one aspect that Jose Altuve has yet to acquire. And it will be some time before he does. No one can say that as of today, Jose Altuve is a lock for the Hall of Fame. One can predict though, based off of his career performance and comparing to other Hall of Fame players, that he is on his way.
Jose Altuve will need to have a few years of offensive dominance to have a chance to crack the Hall of Fame. But if his past four seasons are any inclination, he may already be in the middle of it. All that’s left is to stay healthy, keep playing and keep producing. And if he can do that, no one will be able to overlook him, no matter how tall he is.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***